At Kampung Mongkos in Serian District, Sarawak, 12 families are running a homestay programme that offers visitors an excellent opportunity to experience authentic Bidayuh culture, warmth and hospitality.
The homestay programme is under the Tourism and Heritage Ministry.
Kampung Mongkos has two of the very few surviving Bidayuh longhouses in Sarawak. The village has existed for over a hundred years and is located near Sungai Mongkos.
The original residents of the village came from Kampung Terbat several miles down the road. Due to the shortage of farming land, two of the leaders by the name of Gandai and Orang Kaya Tulob and around 150 villagers decided to look for a resettlement area.
They found the place near Sungai Mongkos and set about building a longhouse and open up land for farming. They began with 20 households and one longhouse, and now the village has two longhouses with a total of 34 doors (24 doors and 10 doors).
When it was time to take down the old longhouse in 1959, the people replaced it with two longhouses. They made sure the traditional design was retained.
It is said that Mongkos was named after the plant lungkos (Bidayuh for wild ginger). One day, a merchant visited Orang Kaya Tulob. He was served with white rice flavoured with ginger cooked in a bamboo stem. He asked about the ingredients in the food but because the word lungkos was strange to him he could not pronounce it properly. It is said that he kept on saying mungkos.
But that did not prevent him from suggesting that the village should be renamed Mungkos. Perhaps out of politeness, Orang Kaya Tulob agreed, but in any case his dog’s name happened to be Mukos. Coincidence?
Today, some houses in the village are modern while others are traditional. Kampung Mongkos Homestay Programme was declared open in 2006 by Serian MP Datuk Richard Riot Jaem after having been in operation since 2004 with 12 operators.
“Since 2004, 50 people had taken the programme’s basic course, but only 12 passed, and now only those 12 people are allowed to run their homestays,” said the chairman, Siti Sedon.
A one-night package costs only RM60 per person for a room and three meals per day. As for the activities during a stay, they are usually discussed with the operators.
Siti said an allocation of RM5,000 had been distributed to each operator for refurbishing the toilets and bathrooms.
“This upgrading of facilities is aimed at attracting more people,” said Siti, adding that accommodation and related facilities are fullboard.
The rooms are clean with fans, common bathroom and toilet, and other basic amenities.
On arrival visitors are welcomed with a ceremony. First they are greeted with drum music called “bidumbak”. A white hen’s egg is used to chase away evil spirits and visitors are then entertained with ‘langi pingadap’ (a traditional welcoming dance).
Another dance called “Pak Dino” and “Dayang Diki” may also be presented. In this dance dolls are used to tell a story about a married couple. Because marriage between siblings is taboo for the Bidayuh, the couple was cursed and they turned into monkeys.
To end the ceremony on a lighter and more festive note, the welcoming ceremony would end with a “belangi” dance in which the visitors are encouraged to take part. Before this dance begins, male visitors are given ‘sabok’ (men’s sarong).
There are a number of attractions at Kampung Mongkos. One is Silungkung Waterfall (literally spiral waterfall) because it sort of looks like a coiled dragon or snake. Beyond the fall is Silungkung Cave which is inhabited by bats.
Then there is Bukit Kapal. Legend has it that this “bukit” (hill) comprises a woman and her daughter as well as a Bugis boat that turned into stone after being cursed for insulting a crab.
For the less intrepid or those less inclined towards strenuous physical activities, they can watch or join the women making baskets, bead items, woodcarving and many other types of handicraft.
Visitors can also learn the traditional method of processing padi. For simple fun, visitors can play the pangkak (top spinning contests), a traditional game usually played after the harvesting season.
Siti said many students from abroad and from local universities had come for Kampung Mongkos Homestay.
“There was a group of 20 students from the United Kingdom. In June, 100 university students from West Malaysia will come,” she said.
The distance from Kuching to the village is 103km. It takes roughly 90 minutes by road to cover the distance. The population of Kampung Mongkos is 1,095 people, most of whom are farmers, especially the older generations.
Some of the younger people are government servants and the rest are private sector employees. Padi cultivation and farming are the main agricultural activities of the villagers. Among the crops they plant are oil palm, padi, pepper, rubber trees, and miscellaneous fruits such as rambutan, mango, banana, jackfruit and durian.
Kampung Mongkos has sundry shops, a school, church, public toilets and a football field. Due to the close proximity of Kampung Mongkos to the Indonesian border, the Sarawak state government has allowed the Indonesians to sell their products in the area around the village.
For more information regarding the programme, contact Siti Sedon at 013-576 4003 or visit their website http://mongkoshomestay.bravehost.com – By Reen Reira